In many cities across America — including Oakland — there is a deep-seated distrust between communities of color and the police departments that are supposed to serve and protect them. People often feel as if police treat them as suspects merely because of their skin color, and, as a result, are reluctant to work with police to lower crime in their neighborhoods. Residents also complain that police commanders don't pay attention to their needs. But Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus is a top cops who gets it: He knows that reducing crime is not just a matter of enacting tough-on-crime measures. Since taking over RPD in 2006, Magnus has instituted reforms designed to forge better relationships between police and the community — and to listen to what residents want. Every cop in the department is now a community-policing officer, and no cop can get promoted unless he or she has a record of community engagement. Magnus also learned that a top priority for many residents of low-income areas is addressing trash dumping and blight. So he convinced the city to put those services under his command. And guess what? Violent crime has been dropping in Richmond, while it's been going up elsewhere.
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